GW Law Professors Warn of U.S. Violations of International Human Rights and Trade Obligations if FCC Does Not Protect Net Neutrality

By TAP Guest Blogger

Posted on December 12, 2014


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This post was written by Professor Arturo Carrillo and Professor Dawn Nunziato, both with the George Washington University Law School.


Wednesday, on International Human Rights Day, George Washington University Law School Professors Arturo Carrillo and Dawn Nunziato submitted a Comment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the Commission to adopt strong net neutrality rules so as not to violate the United States' international human rights and trade obligations.


In their Comment, Carrillo and Nunziato call attention to the potential negative impact on these international obligations of adopting the FCC's Proposed Rules.


"Human rights don’t disappear when we log onto the Internet," said Professor Carrillo. "The United States is a global leader in protecting freedom of expression and free trade and must remain so by strongly protecting net neutrality. A failure to protect true net neutrality transgresses the United States’ international trade commitments to permit foreign companies access and interconnection to U.S. telecommunications services on nondiscriminatory terms."


"Allowing for U.S. broadband providers to create "slow lanes" and "fast lanes" will disadvantage small businesses, emerging competitors, and minority viewpoints while favoring large firms and incumbents," Professor Nunziato explained. "This is inconsistent with our international free speech obligations to accord meaningful protection for the right to seek, receive, and impart information, ideas, and opinions through any media and regardless of frontiers."


The professors' Comment stresses that the United States—as a party to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and committed to the Basic Agreement on Trade in Telecommunications Services (BATS)—has committed to providing services in a nondiscriminatory manner, which the Proposed Rules would violate in practice. Businesses from developing nations, especially in Latin America, would be disparately impacted by these rules. Strong net neutrality laws and regulation cover 85% of Latin America by population and trade. In addition, 90% of Internet traffic from that region is routed through Miami, making it subject to U.S. regulations of domestic ISPs. A failure to meaningfully protect net neutrality by the United States and the concomitant violation of its trade obligations would open the door to legal action against it by other WTO members from Latin America, and elsewhere.


Additionally, the professors argue, the Proposed Rules would violate the United States' international human rights commitments to protect freedom of expression. These rules would allow broadband providers to create "fast lanes" for wealthy firms and incumbents—while relegating all others to "slow lanes"—which would restrict the right to seek and impart information through a user's preferred media. Violation of this right exposes the United States to scrutiny at the United Nations and to legal complaints in the Inter-American Human Rights System.


Professors Carrillo and Nunziato urge the FCC to adopt and enforce strong net neutrality rules to ensure that the United States does not violate its international trade and human rights commitments.


Arturo Carrillo is a Professor of Law and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at GW Law. Dawn Nunziato is a Professor of Law and an internationally recognized expert in the area of free speech and the Internet. In 2011, Professors Carrillo and Nunziato established GW Law's Global Internet Freedom & Human Rights Project, which addresses global Internet free speech and human rights issues.


To read the complete Comment, please click here.


This post was written by Professor Arturo Carrillo and Professor Dawn Nunziato. It is republished on TAP with permission by the authors. “GW Law Professors Warn of U.S. Violations of International Human Rights and Trade Obligations if FCC Does Not Protect Net Neutrality” was originally published December 10, 2014.


For more information, read the Washington Post article exploring Professors Carrillo and Nunziato’s Comment to the FCC: “How U.S. Net Neutrality Could Be an International Human Rights Fight.”

 


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